So You Want to Be an Advocate? Your Game Plan
Mistakes Advocates Make

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June 5 , 2007

ISSN: 1538-3202

Issue: 393
Subscribers: 50,643

In This Issue

So You Want to Be an Advocate?

Mistakes People Make: Advocates

Two Special Ed Law & Advocacy Training Programs in Austin TX

More Resources from Wrightslaw

Doing Your Homework
Ask the Advocate
Advocacy Training
Advocacy Tips
Free Newsletters
Are YOU Listed on the Yellow Pages for Kids?

Yellow Pages for Kids

Listings are Free!
Training Schedule
June 9: Austin, TX - Advanced Advocacy Training (Private)
June 22: Cortland, NY - Special Education Law and Advocacy Training
August 22: Lexington, KY - Special Education Law and Advocacy Training

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More Resources from Wrightslaw
Doing Your Homework
Ask the Advocate
Advocacy Training
Advocacy Tips
Free Newsletters
Wrightslaw Special Education Training 
Contact Info

Pete and Pam Wright
Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043



Copyright 2007, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved. Please do NOT reprint or host on your website without explicit permission.

What's the most frequently asked question at Wrightslaw this week?
  • "I am interested in becoming an advocate for children with special needs and their families. Is there a certification process?"
  • "I am a retired school administrator. I am interested in training to become a special education advocate. Is there an organization I can join, training I may receive? Where should I begin?"
  • "I was a certified special ed teacher and I would like to become a parent advocate. I'm not sure how to get started ..."
  • "I am a good teacher and I know my stuff. I feel like there is more that I need to do to empower parents and students...and districts to be more supportive. I would love some direction. Can you help?" Forward to a friend

What great questions!

Do you want to help parents and children? Have you thought about becoming an advocate but don't know where to start?

Who Can Be an Advocate?

To advocate means to speak, plead or argue in favor of - it is a synonym for support. Education advocates use specialized knowledge and expertise to help parents and schools resolve problems about a child's educational program.

In this issue, Pat Howey provides a game plan about the knowledge and skills you need to be an education advocate for children and their families.

Sign up free today!  l Read previous issues

So You Want to Be An Advocate? A Game Plan by Pat Howey

So you want to be an advocate? What do you need to learn? What skills do you need to acquire?

Here are three essential things you need to do:

  • Expose yourself to advocacy opportunities
  • Learn about special education, law and advocacy
  • Practice, practice, practice advocacy skills

Expose Yourself to Advocacy Opportunities

The best way to become a good advocate is by exposure. If you wanted to catch the flu, you would hang out with folks who had the flu. If you want to become a good advocate, hang around with folks who do advocacy work.

Learn about Special Education, Law and Advocacy

Read everything you can find about special education, disabilities, and how children learn.

Read IDEA 2004, the federal special education regulations, and the Commentary to the regulations that was published in the Federal Register.

Remember that law is always changing. What you read today may change tomorrow because of decisions in due process hearings, appeals, and by courts. State complaints may clarify portions of the special education law. You need to spend time if you are to stay current on the the changes in law.

Join Organizations & Attend Conferences

Join at least three organizations or information groups. Many organizations have great state and national conferences. There are often special sessions for advocates at these conferences.

Most organizations publish state and national newsletters for their members. Newsletter editors are always looking for fresh content. After you've read a few issues, offer to write an article for a newsletter.

Attend Training Programs

Attend a Wrightslaw special education law and advocacy training program or seminar. Wrightslaw programs are expanding. Online training programs will be available soon. 

Partners in Policymaking provides leadership training, advocacy skills workshops, and resource development. Participants learn how to network and share resources.
Partners programs are available in most states and several countries. If you have questions about your state's program, contact your State Coordinator.

Each state has at least one Parent Training Information Center (PTI). The staff at these centers serve families of children with disabilities in a variety of ways. Many PTIs provide advocacy training. Check the Directory of Parent Training Information Centers on the Yellow Pages for Kids site to see what training opportunities are available near you.

The Federation for Children with Special Needs offers Parent Consultant Training Institutes for parents and professionals in Massachusetts. Read Becoming an Advocate

If you have not done so, you need to subscribe to The Special Ed Advocate newsletter. The Special Ed Advocate is unique, interesting and free!

Join the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) is the national organization of attorneys, education advocates and parents. COPAA focuses on special education rights and excellence in advocacy. MissionCouncil of Parent Attorneys & Advocates

As a member, you have access to moderated discussion groups (listservs), databanks of legal documents, and materials by leading special education attorneys and advocates.

COPAA sponsors an annual conference to provide training and education for parents, advocates, and attorneys.

Benefits  l
Membership application l Scholarships

Link up with Other Advocates

The first step in the Game Plan was "Expose Yourself to Advocacy Opportunities." You need to link up with other advocates in your state or city. You'll find advocates listed on the Yellow Pages for Kids website for your state.

Some states and metropolitan areas have groups of advocates. Some states and metropolitan areas have groups of advocates. If you live in Texas, you'll want to check out the Texas Organization of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates (TOPAA).

Volunteer to Help

Try to hook up with a special education parent attorney. Offer to help the attorney (for free) prepare cases for due process hearings and IEP meetings. If you do this, you will learn so much about how to be a good advocate. You will also learn about things you can do that will jeopardize a good special education case.

You will begin to view your advocacy cases from a different perspective. You will understand why you always need to prepare every case as though it will end up in a due process hearing.

Practice Your Advocacy Skills

In addition to learning information, you need opportunities to practice advocacy skills. Offer to go to IEP Team meetings with parents. Offer to be a friendly face at the table. Assure the parents that you will not say anything unless they ask for your input.

Explain that you are trying to learn - and the best way to learn advocacy skills is by going to IEP Team meetings.
When you go to IEP meetings for other children, you do not have the same emotional reaction as when you attend an IEP meeting for your child. You are more objective.

You will see the games people play. You will see that parents wear "buttons" and that some school personnel know how to push these buttons. In time, you will be able to prepare parents so they do not become overtly emotional or angry when someone tries to push their buttons.

You will also learn about the players, their roles, and their personalities. You will recognize their tactics and strategies more easily because you are not emotionally involved.

So you want to be an advocate? What are the three things you need to do?

Printer-friendly copy of So You Want to Be an Advocate by Pat Howey.

About the Author

Pat Howey an advocate who helps parents obtain special education services and resolve special education disputes. She also provides advocacy training programs. Pat answers your questions in Ask the Advocate.

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Mistakes People Make: Advocates by Bob Crabtree, Esq.

Because the non-lawyer advocate plays an extremely important role in the special education process, advocates must be mindful of the power of their role and the trust parents place in them. The more serious mistakes advocates may make are generally ones of excess . . .

Read Mistakes People Make: Advocates by Bob Crabtree, Massachusetts attorney.

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Two Special Ed Law & Advocacy Training Programs in Austin TX

On Thursday, June 7, a Wrightslaw training program with Pete Wright and Pam Wright, is being brought to you by Texas Parent to Parent as a Pre-Conference for their 3rd Annual Parent Conference.

The June 7 program will be held at the Omni Hotel Austin at Southpark, 4140 Governor's Row, Austin TX, 78744.

This special education law and advocacy program will focus on four areas:

  • special education law, rights and responsibilities
  • tests and measurements to measure progress & regression
  • introduction to tactics & strategies for effective advocacy

Brochure l Online registration

Credits: This program has been approved for .6 CEU's, and 6 CLE credits by the Texas Bar.

Contact Information:
Contact Texas Parent to Parent at (866) 896-6001, (512) 458-8600 (local for Austin), (512) 451-3110 (fax), or by email at

Advanced Advocacy Training

On Saturday, June 9, Pete and Pam Wright will provide an Advanced Advocacy Training program for individuals who attended the Thursday program or who have attended a Wrightslaw program previously. This Advanced Advocacy Training program is being sponsored by the Hear Me Foundation.

The June 9 program will be held at
Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children, 19051 F.M. 2484, Killeen, Texas 76542-5068. Directions & Map

The Advanced Advocacy Training program is not open to the public. To find out if you are eligible to attend, please contact Tamala Irish. Her phone number is on the Advanced Advocacy Training program page.

Credits: 6 CLE credits have been approved by the State Bar of Texas and Continuing Education Units (CEU's) have been approved for .6 units.

We are scheduling programs for 2007 and 2008. If you are interested in bringing a Wrightslaw program to your community, please read our Conference Information page.

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What People Are Saying About The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter

"Thanks for the trustworthy information and support you provide through the Wrightslaw website and newsletter. You helped our family act when we needed to - we are thriving now."


Great Products From Wrightslaw

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind

Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board

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